One reason why climate change legislation is so hard to pass is because of the large discrepancies between regions, in terms of dependence on different sources of energy and – by extension – the size of effect carbon pricing would have.
A recent article on The New Yorker discusses the failure of the Obama administration to pass climate change legislation so far, and points out the awareness of those in the U.S. Senate to this regional issue:
When [Senator Lieberman] went to lobby Evan Bayh, of Indiana, Bayh held up a map of the United States showing, in varying shades of red, the percentage of electricity that each state derived from burning coal, the main source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. The more coal used, the redder the state and the more it would be affected by a cap on carbon. The Northeast, the West Coast, and the upper Northwest of the country were pale. But the broad middle of the countryâ€”Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinoisâ€”was crimson. (Indiana, for example, derives ninety-four per cent of its electricity from coal). â€œEvery time Senator Lieberman would open his mouth, Bayh would show him the map,â€ a Lieberman aide said.
The same is probably true in many other developed democracies. In Canada, some provinces depend on fossil fuels for a substantial portion of their electricity generation, while others do not. Similarly, some have a lot of jobs and revenues that depend on the oil and gas industry, while others do not.
The fact that some places have been emitting harmful emissions in the past does not give them a right to continue doing so, now that we know about the harms and risks that such burning imposes on other people. That said, when it comes to developing policies and regulations that can actually get through the political system, awareness of regional disparities needs to be maintained and deals will ultimately need to be struck. While the fairest thing would be for oil, gas, and coal producing places to say: “We profited from the fuels in the past because we were ignorant about the harms they cause. Now we know better, so we will stop voluntarily” it is deeply unrealistic to expect them to do so. Rather, they will need to be bought off to some extent, and constrained by the force of the moral argument to some additional extent.